Has your mid-summer water bill skyrocketed from keeping flowerbeds and gardens well-moistened? Gardeners easily rationalize the expense. We don't buy caviar, and we don't winter on the French Riviera, so we're actually saving money while racking up a sky-high utility bill. Besides, the growing season is short so we may as well garden with gusto. Flower gardens, pots and planters are at a summer highpoint. Follow these guidelines to keep plants colorful for the season's second half. Annuals in containers
Q: What can you tell me about the tiny yellow flowers that I'm seeing this year? They're low-growing and smell so nice. I see them along the streets, and they seem to have taken over undeveloped lots and grass along sidewalks. I suppose they're weeds but what fragrant little weeds. - Patricia Belknap, Fargo.
Do certain years stand out in your gardening memory? For me, the drought of 1976 is still fresh in mind, because we struggled so hard to keep our vegetable garden alive. I remember our burnt, crisp lawn in the 1988-1989 drought went beyond the point of summer dormancy and died. But my memories are small potatoes compared to those my mother once related, who as a teenager on a North Dakota farm during the decade-long drought of the 1930s was so impacted by the lack of rainfall that she conserved water the rest of her long life.
Q: I never see any insects on my rose bushes, but find damage to the leaves as pictured, with neat circular cut-outs. I've tried a systemic insecticide, and it doesn't deter whatever is munching on the leaves. Do you know what might be doing this damage? - BeAnn Canton, West Fargo. A: The circular cutouts are made by leafcutter bees and are very common on rose bushes. The bees don't eat the cut leaf sections, but use them for nesting material. Because they don't consume the leaves, just cut through them, insecticides aren't effective.
It's been called the most devastating of all insects for yards, gardens and lawns, and we have reason for concern. An alert has been issued by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture because on June 21 larvae of the Japanese beetle were discovered in nursery stock distributed throughout North Dakota by Minnesota's Bailey Nursery, who is the region's largest supplier of trees and shrubs.
Q: I have no idea what the plant in the attached photo is. As it started to grow I thought it was my daughter's cabbage from a school project, but obviously it's not. It's about 4 feet tall and starting to bud with yellow flowers. — Kari Webb, Lisbon, N.D. A: The plant is called mullein. It's dispersed by seed, both by wind blowing and by birds droppings, and so can pop up unexpectedly. Mullein is a biennial plant, living for two growing seasons, and is recognized by its soft, velvety leaves and upright flower stalk.
Gardeners like to share information. As a young boy, I learned much from gardening with my parents and grandparents. As a teenager, I couldn't wait for the Sunday paper to read the garden articles by longtime Forum columnist Dorothy Collins. In college, I had good teachers, such as NDSU Professors Dale Herman and Neal Holland. In fact, it was from Neal Holland, now owner of Sheyenne Gardens, Harwood, that I first heard July 4 called "Independence Day for gardeners."
Q: Attached are photos of two weeping caraganas, purchased from two different local nurseries. Both are called the same, but they look very different. One is starting to show yellowing of leaves. Is this caused by iron chlorosis like the maples in your recent article? Do you know why the two weeping caraganas look different? — Jerry Luebke, Fargo
Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere, and the vehicle in front of you is poking along as though on a sightseeing tour? I'd like to apologize because it was probably my wife, Mary and I. We've been out sight-seeing again, enjoying peonies, Japanese tree lilacs, flowers in people's yards and all the fresh green trees of June. Although the focus is on the positive rather than searching for problems, occasionally a half-dead specimen grabs your attention.
Q: Squirrels are stripping the bark from the trunk and branches of my three maple trees. Is there anything one can do to stop this? I can understand this happening in the wintertime, but with food available, why are they stripping them now? Should I treat the damaged areas with anything? — Rosemary Thomas, Fargo.